“We are the last generation that can end climate change. We can and we will.”
Remember Greta Thunberg, who single handedly took over the world by raising her voice at the United Nations on climate injustice? Thunberg began a global movement by skipping school — starting in August 2018, she spent her days camped out in front of the Swedish Parliament holding a placard that said “School Strike for Climate Change”.
With the rising levels of pollution in the city turning the tide against a sustainable living in our nation’s metro-cities, it is becoming increasingly imperative to take immediate emergency measures. As voices against clean air and climate justice intensify across the globe, it is the young and the children who are taking over the world as our next generation climate change influencers. Closer home, our Indian states are no exception. We are seeing more of our young and children driving action to bring massive environmental changes. Take for instance, Licipriya Kangujam of India; the nine-year-old who boldly addressed the United Nations Climate Conference, 2019.
In a unique opportunity to amplify young voices across the State, the Bengal Clean Air Network (Bengal-CAN), has launched the Bengal Clean Air Champion Cohort, which will be organised for a period of 3-6 months (approximately). The programme has been launched under the aegis of SwitchON Foundation in partnership with Goldman Sachs, WWF, Our Kids Climate, Greenpeace and the Earth Day Network.
The programme will provide an opportunity to clean air champions who are under 30 years of age and committed to devoting at least 10 hours in a month with the appropriate skills to manage projects related to climate change and environment, and scale their idea into reality. The programme aims to firstly train the clean air champions within the state on leadership, sector-specific training, effective development communication and technological innovations in mitigating the air pollution problem in the state and secondly, self-initiated projects will give a boost to young minds to come up with innovative ways of driving grassroots change.
Let’s dig some hard facts now. A study carried out by Lancet and ICMR has recently revealed that deaths due to air pollution in West Bengal in the year 2019 were about 13 times more than the deaths due to Covid-19 this year. The state has seen about 9,439 deaths due to Covid-19 in 2020 so far as against 1,22,833 deaths attributable to pollution in 2019. Additionally, a study by IIT-Kanpur has revealed that people of Kolkata in the age 25 to 50 years were the most vulnerable to ischemic stroke despite having healthy metabolism.
Furthermore, a survey of 20 doctors across Bengal carried out by Bengal Clean Air Network (BengalCAN) — a network of youths, doctors and experts concerned about the air quality in the State — revealed that about 95% of the doctors perceived the state’s current air pollution crisis as a health emergency. The survey revealed among high risk populations, new and young children are about 50-60% more likely to be affected by rising air pollution levels, among others. This calls for the need to rethink our current mitigation measures and raise the question — what kind of a planet are we leaving behind for our children?
The youth of this generation might be too young to understand the nitty-gritties of climate change, but they sure are the real drivers of change, the only ones seeing the highest impact of air pollution. The impact is already real and is only going to get worse, unless we act now. Whether it is organising a climate strike or cleaning up a neighbourhood lake, youth around the world are increasingly becoming aware of the drastic consequences of climate change and raising their voices to protect their futures.
Every year, pollution levels in Kolkata and cities across Bengal tips the ‘very poor’ and even the ‘severe’ air quality category through winter. A study carried out by Delhi-based think tank CSE uncovered that in Kolkata, the weekly average level of PM2.5 jumped 13 times from the cleanest week of August to the most polluted week of December. In Howrah, it rose 11 times. A study titled State of Bengal Air 2020, carried out by Bengal-CAN, further revealed that between November 2019-February 2020, all the seven non attainment cities in Bengal had almost 91% of the days having ambient air quality between poor to severe as against 87% of that of Delhi.
Being one of a kind citizen-driven environment programme, the Clean Air Cohort builds a platform to drive grassroots change and action towards curbing pollution emissions in the State and spread awareness among the young stakeholders in the State by promoting sustainable living as a way of life in our cities.
Wake up Kolkata! Doctors across the State have already declared the current air pollution status in Bengal a health emergency. Be it managing a kitchen garden in your balcony or curbing single-use plastic, your idea will amplify lakhs of youth voices in the State. We are in the midst of a catastrophe and your voice counts in advocating the rights of our nation’s future for a cleaner, greener and breathable planet.
For more information about the programme, click here.
To register yourself, click here.
Last date to register: January 8, 2021